From Entry Level Employee to Operations Manager in 1 year

I started working at a local soda shop called Splashpad during my sophomore year of high school. Beginning as the low man on the totem pole, just as every other entry-level employee does.

I had just started driving and wanted gas money. I loved Dr. Pepper, so I figured the local soda shop would be a good fit for me. This was my first job and I approached it as I needed gas money, nothing else. I’m a hard worker, so I didn’t go into this job expecting to be a slacker, but I definitely wasn’t trying to take over the company.

I quickly became the person everyone asked to take their shift. I volunteered to stay later or come in earlier. Any open shifts I gladly took and willingly gave up my weekends to work. I wasn’t doing this in hopes of being promoted, I just liked being known as someone who works hard. I enjoyed being a reliable member of the team.

The manager when I got hired only stuck around for a month until a new one got promoted. I was excited for the new one to take over because she had great new ideas and seemed very hard working. However, I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. Even though I had only been working there for two months I could see the way she went about things was flawed.

I would make suggestions on better ways to do things and they would go in one ear and out the other. I never understood this. If someone, no matter their status in the company, gives you a way to better the company, why wouldn’t you take it?

I began to study the ins and outs of the business and formed my own opinions on the best practices for the business. I didn’t want to step on her toes and knew she wasn’t a fan of my suggestions, so I kept them to myself for the most part.

She ended up moving for another job, so she was only here for around eight months. The owner was in the process of looking for another manager. I thought I had a shot at outperforming the previous manager, so I decided to go for it and ask for the position.

I told the owner I would love a chance to prove myself and show him how much smoother his business could run. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy. I was just starting my junior year of high school. He had NEVER had a manager that wasn’t at least in their twenties.

Who in their right mind would hand over their business to a 17-year-old?

To mitigate his risk, I offered to be the interim manager without a raise. Now he had a manager while he was looking for a “better one” and I was doing the job for less pay. It was a win-win situation for him. I began showing him different ways I was saving him money.

I came up with a better way to do inventory so we didn’t over-order. I changed delivery dates for optimal inventory. I began having promotional events and marketing on social media more frequently. I changed scheduling and added more employees to each shift, which helped us increase revenue.

Over 3 months, I was able to prove I ran his shop better than the previous managers. He officially offered me the job. I was still in high school, playing three sports, and managing a drink shop. I was constantly busy and learned a lot by becoming a manager at such a young age. These are some skills I learned from this role.

Confidence

Do you know how difficult it was to convince a business owner at 17 to let me run his business with no previous experience? Very. Did I know I could do the job? Yes. I learned how to pitch myself and the value I could add at a young age. If I acted meek and mild about being the next manager I never would’ve gotten the job. I had to be confident in myself and my skills in order to prove why I should at least be given a chance.

I had to learn to be confident, not only while pitching myself to the owner, but to everyone I worked with. Being above people that were older than me made me a little nervous, but I had to be confident and lead my team. Nobody believes in you until you believe in yourself.

Leadership

Leadership was something I noticed the previous management lacked. As soon as I got the opportunity to take over this was something I wanted to fix. We have the best team morale and it wasn’t hard to achieve. Here’s how I did it.

  1. I help fix mistakes. When someone did something incorrectly or poorly, I went straight to them, explained the issue, and then moved on. Previous management would talk about the problem with multiple different employees which would in turn make the person who made the mistake feel dumb and embarrassed. That’s not the way to build your team up.
  2. I celebrated new ideas. Anytime anyone came to me with a new idea or way to improve something, I happily implemented it. I remembered how it felt when my ideas were turned away, so this was something I was insistent on changing. We had a huge promotional event the entire month of October because one of the employees came to me with an awesome idea. I even let her run it.
  3. I don’t take credit for things I don’t do. The promotional event in October was a huge success. The owner was impressed and asked me about it. I could’ve easily said I came up with it and gotten major accolades for it. How is that fair? The employee that came up with it should be the one getting the accolades. Yes, I helped her pull it off, but overall it wasn’t me.

Time Management

Being so busy with school, sports, and this new position at work I had to learn great time management skills. Those were all areas where I couldn’t drop the ball. I had to be on my A-game at all times. I’d set up weekly schedules for myself at the beginning of the week. I would make sure I had time to go check on Splashpad even if I wasn’t scheduled to work that day. Yes, all of my managerial duties could be done remotely, but I learned it was very important to actually be in the building to make sure things were running smoothly. It’s much easier to make things more efficient if you are able to see with your own eyes what the problems are.

This was something I watched the previous manager fail at. She would work remotely and rarely step foot in the building. She thought she had a good idea of what was going on, but she really had no idea. It’s hard to make a business run smoothly when you are never there.

Looking back I think it was amazing I was able to pick up on easy ways to improve things that nobody else thought of. The mindset of always wanting to make things more efficient is what landed me the job. I’m glad I was able to get this job at such a young age because I have been able to build my skills immensely.

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